GRAND HAVEN – Four local volleyball teams brought out their sunglasses and took their matches outside on Friday as Grand Haven hosted their annual Battle on the Boardwalk tournament. The event takes place at Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium and along with the Buccaneers features local teams Spring Lake, Fruitport and Mona Shores. The battle is free for the public to attend, but takes donations as a major reason for the event is to raise money for scholarships to give out to athletes.
Cyndi Montgomery is in charge of logistics for the Battle on the Boardwalk. With this job comes a laundry list of tasks that Montgomery has to keep track of.
“It’s getting the volunteers coordinated, including the donations of equipment from parents, making sure everything is set up and we have a plan in place for rain,” Montgomery said. “Making sure that everything is in place and runs smoothly.”
Before being involved in the event as a volunteer and as a parent, Montgomery and her family would be in the crowd as fans while on their camping trips. Sarah Kallio is another parent and volunteer who has been attending the event for several years. Kallio has been around since her daughter was in fifth grade and now her daughter Lexie Kallio is a junior on the Grand Haven varsity team.
The elder Kallio talked about what makes the Battle on the Boardwalk a special local event.
“It’s so exceptional to have this kind of facility to have a volleyball match. I feel like our children don’t understand how amazing it really is. It’s so cool that people can stumble upon on it now, just the way this stadium has been rebuilt has made it so much more inclusive. Now people that wouldn’t normally see any of the area volleyball can participate,” Kallio said.
Montgomery also sees the importance of this event for the community and talked about the draw that it has.
“It’s such a fun event, to have them on the boardwalk out in the sun showing volleyball to the community. There’s so many people that walked through the last two days while we were setting up asking ‘hey, what’s going on?’. We added boys to it this year, that was a cool event. It’s neat to have them play here, I wish this was available to me as a kid.” Montgomery said.
The players recognize how unique it is to have a chance to play matches outdoors with the lake serving as a backdrop. Grand Haven senior Ashley Slater is in her fourth year as a varsity player. She talked about what it’s like to be playing on the boardwalk for the last time as a Buccaneer.
“It’s definitely different from anything else we can experience, not a lot of teams get this opportunity to play in these conditions,” Slater said. “I’m excited to play in it one more time. It is sad being senior year, but that’s just because I love it so much, this program is really special and this event is special.”
The Battle on the Boardwalk showcases local freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams throughout the day on Friday and on Thursday, there was a chance for adult volleyball players the chance to come out and play in a tournament. Montgomery talked about why this event is able to do so well every year.
“This is such a volleyball community. Volleyball is all year here, even for adults. We can show up to recreational events in the area, there are leagues all year round. It’s great to see more people get involved and to expose the younger kids to it.” Montgomery said.
The teams have a small break because of the holiday weekend. None of them will be in action again until Sept. 4, when Mona Shores will play at the West Catholic tri-meet. On Sept. 7, Grand Haven hosts the Grand Haven Invitational. Fruitport will play in that tournament while Spring Lake plays in the West Michigan Volleyball Officials Association Tournament.